While Rome Burned

In honor of Crossover and for anyone who wondered what the House members of the Virginia General Assembly were up to this year, wonder no longer.  The entire month of January, at least to this outside observer, was spent sweating bullets and debating ad nauseum HB 1900, the Speaker’s dog hunting bill. 

If any of you have surmised that dogs running at large is the last thing on the Speaker’s mind, you are not alone.  There was certainly more to this bad legislation than met the eye.  My guess is the real reason so much time and energy was devoted to an issue which already has laws aplenty on the books will eventually come to light.

Perhaps the commercial hunting interests, which were the catalyst for this bill, will be a bit more careful on social media and twitter, but they are an egotistical and generally hateful lot, so they may not be able to resist.  I learned all I needed to know when they made their Nazi commercial with English subtitles comparing dog hunters to Hitler. It’s irksome that this kind of behavior has to touch our Virginia General Assembly, but there it is.

Spare me the property rights lecture. If your county is not enforcing your laws, find out why. Perhaps new representatives are in order to help enforce those laws, but don’t advocate a bill which would have cost localities no small sum and served no additional purpose.

Colleagues have remarked that there were more comments on Richmond Sunlight regarding this bill than any other seen before, a bill which would have been quietly left on the table, had it not been carried by Bill Howell.  This is also apparently the first time the Speaker has lost his bid to have a bill passed, so for what it’s worth, you are all a witness to history.  My guess he is regrouping for another in-run next year against the tradition of dog hunting in Virginia.     

The highlight of session was when the Gentleman from Campbell County, Delegate Matt Farris, told a tall tale which made light of the pressure exerted on House members by the Speaker to support a bill adding another layer of complicated government. It also highlighted the ridiculous aspects of the thing, which was pretty much all of it. The bill died with a close vote 48-47 on Monday, with four members of the GA not recording a vote.  When polled later, both Delegates Jackson Miller and Richard Morris claimed to be no votes.     

For now, I guess in a way, it’s worth a chuckle or two, but the sad thing is, it really isn’t funny.  In an election year when Republicans should be setting an example in legislation which leads the way towards less government, showing citizens how well our philosophy works, at least one half of the GA spent a month discussing dogs.  At least, that’s how it appeared.  Not very conducive to setting the stage for Virginians to feel good about voting conservatively this November.   

We are told to be good Republicans on the local level and lead the charge, but apparently it does not work both ways.  Instead, members of local government, many of whom are hardworking conservatives who give their all when it’s time to elect Republicans up the chain, get left holding the General Assembly’s baggage.  Until the light bulb goes off in the heads of some in Richmond, and they understand that making war on local government with things like the proffer bill, the cable bill and the dog bill is truly making war on regular citizens of both parties, it won’t get any better. 

Last year’s favorite “bad bill” provided for the possibility I could look out into my neighbor’s yard and see a fully constructed cell tower, because God knows a locality is too foolish to institute guidelines for where they should safely go.  You might ask, “who carries this stuff?” The answer is almost all do at one time or another.  Sometimes these bills go down and sometimes they pass.  A senator told me the proffer bill had to be passed to punish NoVA for taking advantage of developers.  When I pointed out our county, nor its neighbors along the water, had ever abused the proffer system, he offered to exempt us.  Guess who got exempted? High density areas in NOVA – the offending party who lobbied harder – got that exemption, not Caroline. A miserable solution anyway, as it did nothing to help those who had not abused the system.  Said one delegate when I pointed out the detrimental affect locally, “they don’t get it and they don’t care.  The feeling is that they are completely insulated.”

Until they “get it,” local government officials and local party chairs as well should stop providing the insulation between citizens and the Virginia General Assembly and stop making excuses for bad legislation carried by Republicans.  Take my advice, you are “enabling” and many times cleaning up the mess they make, or at the very least you get to deal on a daily basis with the fallout from an ongoing situation you advised against. 

In Caroline, we must come to the conclusion that although we are represented directly by some good people, the General Assembly on the whole lacks a connection to real citizens and real situations and creates a culture of “every man for himself.” During General Assembly time, “team” goes right out the window with narrowly focused buddy bills and bright ideas on how to claim balanced budgets in Richmond by putting the burden on local taxpayers.  

Remember this the next time a Delegate or Senator, now a would-be Lieutenant Governor or Attorney General candidate, stands in front of your committee, or at a local meet-and-greet.  His or her voting record is a finger touch away.  

Remember this when you are asked to round up people in your county to vote Republican. How many voters Speaker Howell alienated from the base this year remains to be seen.  The following came from my final update on the dog bill from a poster named Kelly:

I have seen/heard from many dog hunters & dog owners that they don’t need to be taken for granted by Republicans anymore. These people are hunters, gun owners, rural people & those with a sense of Virginia history. Speaker Howell has alienated these voters. He must know of a Republican tsunami where traditional Republican votes are not needed.

Looking directly at the Governor’s race, if social media is any gauge, Denver Riggleman made hay while the sun shone when Howell opened up the crack in the door of the base with this dog bill. Riggleman quickly made a video in support of traditional Virginia values and dog hunting, and he will likely be rewarded for it. He gained name recognition with a huge GOP base in rural Virginia who otherwise would never have known his name, most of whom would undoubtedly have been Gillespie people.

That’s not to say that everything was bad this House session. There was actually some good stuff going on behind the scenes in the House, but it has been overshadowed by things like the dog bill. This session was characterized by one media guru as “silly season,” something the liberal press loves, unfortunately. Next time, perhaps the GOP can put these things to bed in private, even if the main issue is a buddy bill carried by the powerful Speaker of the House.  This was more like a temper tantrum than legislation and Virginians just can’t afford it this year.  The stakes are too high. 

I look forward to talking about good, constructive legislation in the near future in posts going forward.

In the meantime . . .

Dear Republican “TEAM” Members of the General Assembly: 

Please stop with the attitude that we are too stupid to govern ourselves.  Please stop thinking we won’t remember if you, and you alone, make it necessary for a raise in local taxes by making war with a vengeance on our income streams, without offering us an alternative. We have to buy the police cars, fire trucks and build the schools, not you. It’s the era of Trump and people are paying attention. Some of us are actually balancing our budget locally, watching every penny we spend and making wise decisions.  Stop punishing us for the sins of a few.  It’s the easy way out.  

But more importantly, please remember that we have had four long years of Terry McAuliffe during which time Virginia has lost its place as a mecca for business and job creation.  We have had four years of push toward a progressive, liberal agenda on all fronts and on every issue.  What you do this year matters.  Please focus your agenda away from easy targets like the little guy (dog hunters, folks in rural Virginia who need internet and sources of revenue for local government services) and refocus on the Commonwealth as whole, remembering that one size does not fit all.  Virginians live in all kinds of diverse settings, from big beautiful cities to pristine country and waterside.  While it will take much thought and strategic planning as a body to do what is right for everyone, you can do it.  After all, that’s what we hired you to do. It is what each of you promised when you asked to be elected.  

Newsflash: even though a “Republican” was elected to the White house, Virginia is still burning. 

Get it together up there, folks.

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